Joseph Swain was born in Birmingham, England in the year 1761, a specific day is not found. He was orphaned at an early age. There is no history of his childhood. However, he became an apprentice to an engraver in Birmingham and then moved to Southwark. After being there for a time he became a decided Christian in 1782, and being of an emotional poetic temperament, began to give expression to his new thoughts and feelings in hymns. On 11 May 1783, he was baptized by the Rev. Dr. Rippon in the Baptist meeting-house in Carter Lane, Tooley Street, Southwark,, and in 1791 became a Baptist minister and pastor of the East Street Baptist church in Walworth until his death on 1796. He was a very popular preacher whose congregation grew to be so big the church had to be enlarged three times.
Swain wrote many devotional poems and hymns, many of which remained popular through the 19th century, Much of his work was published under the collective title Walworth Hymns in 1792. A version of his hymn “My Song in the Night” was included on the album Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing released by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square in 2009. His most notable hymn is “O Thou in Whose Presence My Soul takes Delight.”
Swain died aged 35 on 14 April 1796. He was buried in Bunhill Fields burial ground in London. His headstone, recovered from its original site following bomb damage in World War II, is now located in the paved “Broadwalk” in the middle of the burial ground, next to the obelisk of Daniel Defoe and the headstone of William Blake.
- Carlyle, E. I.; Briggs, J. H. Y. (revised) (2004). “Swain, Joseph (1761–1796)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/26811. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Jones, J. A., ed. (1849). Bunhill Memorials: sacred reminiscences of three hundred ministers and other persons of note, who are buried in Bunhill Fields, of every denomination. London: James Paul. pp. 268–73.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1521 – Ferdinand Magellan instructs and baptizes Humabon in the Philippines, and will baptize eight hundred more Filipinos in the week that follows.
1902 – J.C. Penney opens his first Golden Rule Store (in Kemmerer, Wyoming), committing himself to the highest ethical standards. He seeks to run his business on biblical principles: giving each customer only quality merchandise at a fair price, taking no more than a fair profit, and transacting business for cash only.
1954 – Tommy Hicks begins evangelistic and faith-healing meetings in Argentina which fill large stadiums.